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Does Declaration still guide America?
Rotary Declaration of Independence.jpg
Political science professor and Dean of the MTSU Honors College, Dr. John Vile was the guest speaker at Noon Rotary on Thursday and spoke about the importance of maintaining the values in the Declaration of Independence. - photo by Bethany Porter

Does the Declaration of Independence still remain a powerful guide in America’s destiny? That is what Rotary Club of McMinnville guest speaker Dr. John Vile aimed to determine in his presentation Thursday.

Vile is a political science professor and dean of the MTSU Honors College and has earned national acclaim for his books and articles written about the history of the founding documents. During an investigation on abuses and potential crimes against Americans and our freedom to elect our leaders, the connection between the Declaration of Independence and current Jan. 6 congressional hearings was a timely topic for Dr. Vile.

The peaceful transfer of power is an important principle in government and Dr. Vile explained it is like rooting for your child’s sports team to win. 

“I don’t think there are any principles more important in our government than the peaceful transfer of power,” said Vile. “Think about this. If you had children or grandchildren in sports, you all want them to be on winning teams yes? That is important to us, but if my children came home and said our coach is saying we are going to win at any cost. He is saying do things that are illegal or do things that are immoral. Whatever it takes to win. Would we support that? I don’t think so. I think there are times, most of the time, when playing fair is more important than winning.”

Dr. Vile said, “I believe our country has succeeded most when we have kept the values of the Declaration of Independence in mind.”  

He compared what the document says verses where we are now. Vile asked if we still have unity among people as written in the Declaration or if we have divided into rival tribes. He says it affirms all men are created equal, and asked if we believe that or if we think people who are more similar to us are more equal than others.

Does our current view of happiness still retain the same social context it did in the Declaration or is it now seen as a private pursuit of pleasure?

“The Declaration of Independence declares that just governments are based on the consent of the governed. Are we still willing to turn over the reins of government to political opponents after they win free elections, or should I add, do I have to take the Fifth Amendment when we are asked if we believe in the peaceful transition of power?” asked Vile referring to the Jan. 6 Committee hearings.

Vile believes these questions will be answered during the hearing. He then discussed past congressional hearings throughout history and says they usually happen anytime a significant event happens. He explained that these hearings are a way to inform the public and congress and are a way to get the truth while participants are under oath.

TV pays a large role in these congressional hearings as well, but Vile believes this had led to a magnification of grandstanding.

“If I had to diagnose a problem in American government particularly in congress, it is that for every work horse we have about 10 show horses. Watch the nightly news and just ask yourself when you see someone who is on there night after night have they introduced or ever adopted a specific legislation or are they just people who know how to stir the pot? Are they people who care more about being in the limelight than supporting the Constitution of the United States?” asked Vile.

Vile says during the current hearing, it is most important to find out what happened during the transition of power. He says we need to be asking what is going to happen during the next election. Does there need to be clearer legislation in place, and do we have adequate safeguards in place?

A half-hour interview with Dr. Vile can be heard on McMinnville Public Radio 91.3-WCPI. The broadcast times are Tuesday, July 5 at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.